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241: Trusting The Mama Bear Instinct, with Dr. Sarah Miller

By June 6, 2023November 7th, 2023Mastermind Parenting Podcast

Our fav pediatrician, Dr. Sarah Miller, is back for a conversation about neurodiversity, discipline styles, and why she chooses to be the Mama Bear for her kids.

The inspiration for this episode came from a speech Dr. Sarah wrote about the way her children thrived at a preschool that teaches typically developing kids together with their peers who have disabilities and neurodivergence. Part of the reason that so many kids succeed in that environment is because of the conscious discipline techniques used (and taught) in the classroom. But, like many parents, she needed help to make that training work at home.

The missing ingredient for Sarah was the same one I see so many moms struggle with; trusting themselves when they need to take charge and enforce boundaries. Sarah and I talk candidly about why it’s hard to be the Mama Bear, and how stepping into that role can transform your relationship with your kids.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  1. How bringing the Mama Bear energy can make discipline more effective, AND help you reclaim your energy.
  2. What happens when well-meaning parents focus on feelings, but aren’t comfortable setting boundaries with their kids.
  3. How being honest with your kids builds trust, even when the truth isn’t fun.
  4. Why it can be challenging to implement conscious discipline (and how Mastermind Parenting can help).

And much more! 

As always, thanks for listening. Head over to Facebook, where you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community. We post tips and tools and do pop-up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!

About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

Randi’s Web and Social Links


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[00:00:00] Randi Rubenstein: My name is Randi Rubenstein and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast. At Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them.

[00:00:10] Hi everyone. I’m here with the beautiful Dr. Sarah Miller, as my brother and my brother-in-law Jared like to call her, cuz she is now their doctor as well as mine. 

[00:00:25] Sarah did a residency in, I didn’t even know this until you just mentioned this recently on that panel where you did a residency in internal family medicine and in pediatrics, you did a double residency. 

[00:00:38] Sarah Miller: I did. Yes, 

[00:00:39] Randi Rubenstein: What in the ever living fuck, I mean, is this the way overachievers just live? Like 

[00:00:47] Sarah Miller: it’s true. 

[00:00:48] Randi Rubenstein: I mean at Baylor, both of them at Baylor. 

[00:00:51] Sarah Miller: Yeah. It was a combined program. So the group of us did two residencies, and we would alternate. So not only was, it wasn’t even just back-to-back like peds residency and then internal medicine residency, we would do three months of pediatrics and then switch into three months of internal medicine and three months of pediatrics, and then three months of internal medicine. So it was a constant, uh, mind switch and juggle and –

[00:01:19] Randi Rubenstein: constant mind fuckery. it’s a good thing. I have some weird sense of, I don’t even know if it’s self-confidence or maybe it’s just self-acceptance of my underachiever-ness because I, I, I, I’d be like, woo. I got into medical school I go, Ooh, what? I got a residency, like the whole double thing. That kind of, blew my mind. I’m not gonna lie. NGL, NGL, as my kids like to say, not gonna lie. 

[00:01:53] okay, so this month I wanted Sarah to come on and for those of you who are used to watching our conversations via YouTube, guess what? We don’t have the video this time because this is a case of two women who are really good at a lot of things in our lives, and we are not the best with technology. And so there’s been just like an issue in terms of us recording and it being the right sound quality. So we just decided that we’re on the good enough model and we are kicking it old school podcast style only audio.

[00:02:33] but I wanted to have Sarah on because Sarah invited me to a luncheon where she’s been very involved in this school called The Rise School. this beautiful school that’s near and dear to her heart. And I went to the luncheon last year. This year I did not go to the luncheon. and when Sarah invited everyone this year to sit at her table, she shared a speech because she was one of the speakers years ago at the Rise school, as a parent who sent her kids to this school.

[00:03:04] And she wrote this beautiful speech and I read it and I said, well, this speech needs to be read on the podcast and we need to, we’re not even discussing it until you come on the podcast and then we’re gonna discuss it there. so how was the luncheon this year? 

[00:03:19] Sarah Miller: It was lovely. It was lovely. So there’s always a speaker and then a adorable, fashion show from a bunch of the kids. There was a speaker who was a mom. This is my first year where I’m just far enough removed from when my kids were there that I don’t know as many of the parents, and so it was a mom’s story who I didn’t know, it was really moving. Really amazing.

[00:03:41] Randi Rubenstein: what is the Rise school like, how did it come to meet, be, and uh, tell us a little bit about the Rise school. 

[00:03:47] Sarah Miller: So the Rise School is a, preschool for kids to be integrated into classrooms together, who are typically developing, and other kids who have, who who are born with some developmental disabilities, mainly down syndrome because the founders, their grand son had down syndrome.

[00:04:12] And so I would say most of the kids with the developmental disability, that’s what they’re coming into the school with, but they actually accept kids with a whole variety. And the goal is to support all these kids in the classrooms together. So they learn from each other, it’s an inclusion model. And all kids learn, how to just thrive together. They learn from each other and it’s really, really beautiful. 

[00:04:38] Randi Rubenstein: So your kids are typical developing and you sent them to this school because you were so impressed with this school after you took a tour of It when you were in residency. I don’t wanna blow your speech. So maybe we should just start with you reading the speech, because that kind of tells your story right.

[00:04:56] Sarah Miller: Yes. I was asked to speak at the luncheon a couple of years ago because we have been one of the few families who sent their kids, typically developing kids there who didn’t otherwise have a connection to the school, like either a, child of a teacher or sibling. A lot of the typical labeled kids are the siblings of kids who go there. Because people just don’t know about, about this. Um, or they don’t have the, the vision to see how they could benefit from it, um, without having, you know, a kid who has, you know, any special needs. So they asked me to speak about that because of my unique perspective.

[00:05:33] Now there are more and more families, but still, um, not many, in our same circumstance. And the interesting thing is the school, there’s a huge waiting list for kids with down syndrome to get in. I mean, you have to call, you know when baby is still in utero to get on the waiting list. But for typically able kids that you’re able to really mostly get in right away. And that’s really the limiting factor for the school to grow because the point of it is to have almost 50/50 in each classroom, typically abled kids and kids with a developmental disability. And you can’t grow the school if you don’t have more typically abled kids to include. so I’m, I’ve been passionate about telling people about it.

[00:06:14] Randi Rubenstein: Well, I think this is, you know, and, and maybe that is, always where our conversations are gonna go or what the point is, I just kind of follow my intuition. But maybe that is what this episode is mostly gonna be about, is just educating people on why you would even consider sending your kids to a school where they are typically abled. Is that the correct term? 

[00:06:39] Sarah Miller: The only term I try to avoid is normal.

[00:06:41] Cause it’s like, what is normal? That’s like what rolls off the tongue. So sometimes it sounds awkward, but I just try to come up with a term that is, 

[00:06:50] Randi Rubenstein: Well, I’ve been, I’ve heard, you know, I’ve heard a lot of people who fall in the neurodiverse category talk about ableism. 

[00:06:59] Sarah Miller: Yeah. 

[00:07:00] Randi Rubenstein: and what just popped into my head is, you know, if you’ve ever known anyone or if any of your kids have ever done like a Spanish immersion program at a school, when you go into a Spanish immersion program and English is your first language, and so you want your kids to, learn how to be fluent in Spanish, right?

[00:07:18] In that class, there’s a certain number of spots for kids where English is their first language and there’s a certain number of spots for kids where Spanish is their first language and they, as I understand it I might, I think I’m getting this right, but like they combine these two populations because I guess the idea is that you have the kids learning in Spanish, and because the kids that wear Spanish as their first language, where they become classmates and peers with kids that English is their first language, the Spanish speakers become better English speakers, and the English speakers become more fluent in Spanish. 

[00:08:03] That’s how I understand it. And it sort of seems like maybe like this is kind of that same model where when you’re combining these two populations of kids, they’re all learning from each other. And so they all, so it’s this very collaborative sort of experiential way of learning, which I think is really cool.

[00:08:24] And it makes total sense because I don’t think I ever really understood why you know, me just coming from that privilege of my kids being neurotypical for the most part, besides two, outta three of ’em having the highly sensitive nervous systems. But for the most part, they, they seem to be neurotypical or by mainstream standards. Like, why would I want ’em in a class with kids that have Down syndrome or autism? And so I think that, your perspective here, it helped me to understand why it would be so important and how my kids would also benefit from it. 

[00:09:01] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. Yeah, a lot of our close family didn’t understand at the time either, so I think it’s very normal to, to not quite get it. It’s not the norm.

[00:09:13] And 

[00:09:13] Randi Rubenstein: the thing I’ll say is, is like my daughter grew up where she had a very good friend who was in a car accident when he was in third grade and s and, and then he was in an, a wheelchair. Um, he’s in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, um, unless something miraculous happens. And she grew up in a very you know, small school and the kids were all really close.

[00:09:40] And this boy was, had been like the star athlete and the fastest runner and the best baseball player. And then all of a sudden he was in a wheelchair. And so they grew up where by the time they, these kids were in high school, they did, she would tell me, she’s like, yeah, we don’t even see the chair.

[00:10:00] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. 

[00:10:01] Randi Rubenstein: and I remember when they were seniors and they were going and they were renting this house, like it was this whole thing, um, down for the weekend, a bunch of them were, you know, there was a couple of moms that were there and the kids were renting a house as seniors. And, those houses down in Galveston where the beaches, that’s the beach town near Houston a lot of ’em are way up on these stilts. And so there’s a million stairs going up. 

[00:10:25] And I remember asking her, I was like, well, if Peter’s coming, do y’all need to make sure that like it’s wheelchair accessible? And she was like, no, no, no, it’s not a big deal. Cuz his cousin was in the same grade and she’s like, all the guys, they all get together and Noah kind of, leads the charge and, um, You know, Noah will just carry Peter up. Like they just figure it out. It’s, it’s really, we don’t even consider that it’s not a big deal.

[00:10:48] Like the kids all rallied around. They, they, like, they didn’t see the chair and, they also were all aware that if there was a bunch of stairs, like they’d figure it out and, Peter would figure it out and like, it just was never gonna be a hindrance. 

[00:11:02] And I was like, that’s so cool. You know, like, it’s been such this inclusive model that they just like, they just saw beyond the chair and they see beyond, you know, what the rest of society might see as, you know, the first impression.

[00:11:17] Sarah Miller: And kids just need the opportunity to be put in the environment where they can do that. When we pull separate kids out in classrooms and schools and just don’t give the opportunity, then the, a child may never be exposed to it and get the opportunity to, you know, include others. Sometimes we just, um, don’t have the foresight to put them together.

[00:11:40] Randi Rubenstein: Mm-hmm. And so, okay. Read the speech. I wanna, I want everyone to hear it. It’s so good. 

[00:11:45] Sarah Miller: Okay. Here we go.

[00:11:47] I’d like to begin with an excerpt from the book, “Hector the Collector,” by Emily Beanie.

[00:11:54] “It all began with an acorn. It was smooth and brown with a rough nooby cap, and Hector found it in a crack on the sidewalk on the way to school. At recess, he found two more. One was skinny and green. The other was short and chubby, like an old man with his hat pulled over his eyes.

[00:12:14] On the way home, he picked up some more. Two were as green as apples. Two were brown and grainy like wood. One was golden and smooth, like polished stone. Some were round, some were long, some were stubby. They all had rough nooby caps.”

[00:12:35] Our RISE school story started when I was a first year internal medicine and pediatrics resident at Baylor College of Medicine. I toured Rise as part of our community resources rotation to learn more about places where we could refer parents of children with down syndrome or other developmental disabilities. I remember first being struck by the warm, supportive environment. Every teacher, every staff member knew every child’s name, and were literally cheering them on as they walked the halls.

[00:13:08] During just four hours there, I saw small milestones accomplished and celebrated. I saw teachers listening intently to what their kids were communicating verbally or non-verbally, and when perhaps a child wasn’t yet communicating his needs well, his teachers looked right into his eyes, acknowledged his feelings, and spoke directly to him. When you walk into Rise, you feel valued.

[00:13:35] Then, of course, I observed inclusion in the classrooms. Every child was participating in the same activities with the same expectations. They greeted each other, played, ate, danced, did art projects, cried, grabbed each other’s toys and melted down. Then got right back up again and learned about the world right alongside each other. It was very special.

[00:14:01] My take home message from spending the day at this incredible school was yes, that I would certainly refer children with Down Syndrome, but more than that I wanted to refer every child. I wanted my future children to go here, to be given the opportunity to experience a school and an environment like this in their most formative years.

[00:14:23] So fast forward three years later and we enrolled our 18- month old, typically developing son Elliot. He attended until he was five years old, graduated from Rise, and is now in first grade at Horn Elementary. Our second son, Gideon, started at six months and is now four years old and currently attending Rise.

[00:14:47] Most of the typically developing kids are either siblings or children of teachers. We were one of the first families with no other connection to Rise. Though since that time, this number has steadily grown. There’s a very long waiting list for families of kids with Down syndrome to get a spot, and my dream is that one day there will be a longer one for typically developing kids.

[00:15:10] What I have gained and learned from our now seventh year at Rise is more than I could have ever imagined. I started my boys at Rise so that they could not only thrive developmentally from the one-on-one instruction, support and, incredible resources Rise offers, but so that they could learn acceptance, understanding, inclusion, and empathy. And through RISE, I was given the gift of what this truly looks like in our world.

[00:15:39] First, they did learn acceptance. They are in a peer group of kids at Rise with a million differences. Elliot’s first love was Mara B., a little girl with Down syndrome. He brought her a bouquet of roses at their Rise graduation. Maya wears glasses. Ben used a walker and communicated with an iPad. They were also taught by teacher assistants with developmental disabilities. Gideon was rocked to sleep at nap time for an entire year by Allie, a teaching assistant with Down Syndrome.

[00:16:16] But acceptance didn’t look like how I imagined it would. I thought it would be Elliot or Gideon entering elementary school and being the kid who sees someone left out and invites him into the group or sees the kid who’s different and goes up to talk to him. 

[00:16:33] Well, this year in first grade the mom of a little boy in Elliot’s class who has autism and albinism texted me to say that Max kept coming home and telling her that Elliot was his best friend. Yet Elliot had barely even mentioned Max to me, and so I asked Elliot about Max and he gave me the typical first grade response to any question I ask about school, a shoulder shrug, and a “Yeah.” But in that moment, I finally understood.

[00:17:06] It’s not that Elliot accepted or understood Max’s differences. He didn’t see him as different. Max saw Elliot as his best friend, not because Elliot went out of his way to talk to him or do things for him, but because Elliot treated him like every other kid. At recess, he tagged him out. At lunch, he sat next to him if there was an open seat. And if Max bugged him or took his stuff, Elliot told on him.

[00:17:35] They were equals, and they were friends. They were all different. They were all the same. They were all beautiful.

[00:17:45] Elliot and Gideon also received acceptance at Rise. When I describe my kids with the politically correct term, typically developing, I mean, what does that even mean? Every child has their own challenges, their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Elliot has always struggled with anxiety, inflexibility, and difficulty reading social cues. We searched for a diagnosis for a period of time, and had terms thrown around like sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and highly sensitive child, but we finally stopped searching and just diagnosed him with being him. And he is now absolutely thriving in first grade due in full to our time at the Rise School.

[00:18:34] At two years old in Yellow Room, when he was going around hitting everybody, his teacher, Carol, identified that he just didn’t know how to say hi and taught him how to greet a friend. At four years old in Green Room when Elliot had difficulty transitioning during school pickup, and would have an epic meltdown and run the other way when I arrived every single day for at least six months, Doris would hold his hand, get him on his feet, and gently repeat, “You’re safe, you’re calm. You can do this. You’re safe, you’re calm. You can do this.” As she walked into my car.

[00:19:13] And at five years old, during his final year in Purple Room, there are no words that could effectively convey my gratitude for how Yolanda gently, yet firmly, expertly, and with humor and joy, pushed Elliot to face his fears, built his confidence, and allowed him to blossom into a kid you would not even recognize walking the halls.

[00:19:36] Imagine if all kids could be valued in this way. Their behavior viewed with positive intent, never labeled, never excluded, never a call to go home because of acting up or hitting or, or even potentially getting kicked out of preschool. It would change the landscape of our educational system and of our world. 

[00:19:58] They were all different. They were all the same. They were all beautiful.

[00:20:05] And finally I received acceptance at Rise. I was gifted a community of moms from whom I have learned so much. When I started my boys at Rise, it was for them and their future success, and, as we all are, as moms, I was so focused on my kids. It didn’t even cross my mind that, I too might get something out of this experience. But I was welcomed into an unexpected family. We support each other, celebrate wins together and commiserate together.

[00:20:38] The mom of a baby with Down Syndrome wasn’t handpicked to care for that child because she’s full of infinite patience. We all struggled. We all question every decision of every moment of every day. We are all trying to make it out the door. Every morning we’re all racing in with lunches and nap mats and one shoe and trying to raise happy, healthy kids. 

[00:21:02] They were all different. They were all the same. They were all beautiful.

[00:21:08] And honestly, sometimes I felt like the outsider, like the imposter. But then there are our friends who have come to us over the years and thanked me because, without us, their kid wouldn’t be the same. But the beauty of it is, without them, my kids wouldn’t be the same.

[00:21:29] And I’ll finish with. Another quote from “Hector The Collector.” “Every collection tells a story about the things in it, and about the person or people who brought those things together. Every collection is different. Every collection is the same, just like all of us.”

[00:21:48] Randi Rubenstein: I’m mean, that’s why we had to read it here. 

[00:21:55] Sarah Miller: I haven’t read that out loud since that speech. My kids are now 11 and eight, so fifth grade and second grade. 

[00:22:02] Randi Rubenstein: Mm. I mean, when you said it was like, and I teach this to all the moms of my mastermind where I’m like, you can have boundaries. So Sarah sends this and I was like, Sarah, I love you and no, I’m not coming to the luncheon, but I read your speech and I love it so much. Can we please read it on the podcast?

[00:22:23] Uh, you’re, see, you guys, you’re, you’re learning even more here that you you can say, no, I don’t wanna go to your luncheon – 

[00:22:32] Sarah Miller: and we’re, still friends and I’m on the podcast! 

[00:22:34] Randi Rubenstein: And we’re still friends. You’re allowed to own it. When you don’t make up excuses, when you don’t lie, when you just tell the truth to friend and you let them really know you, I think that’s the exact same thing as we’re learning from, from inclusive environments like the Rise school. And, and when kids are allowed to just show up and be themselves and they’re supported in that way, I think that’s what makes it all work and what all the kids gain from an environment like that, where it’s like everyone’s telling the truth. No one’s pretending that everyone needs to be the same. We’re not raising a bunch of sheep. 

[00:23:17] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. 

[00:23:18] Randi Rubenstein: Adults are properly trained in behavior strategies, right? Adults are properly trained to understand what children are most likely trying to tell you through their behavior. You know, I think it’s, it’s probably easier to recognize or to be trained on this when you’re dealing with kids that have differences that have disabilities because you don’t even expect them to name their emotions. You don’t even expect them to know how to exist in the world when they have so many differences and, and life is so much harder. You can see it so clearly. 

[00:23:59] But I think it’s like, it’s a metaphor for, for all of our kids, because all little kids are learning how to be alive right, and the part of their brain that is the most developed is that emotional part of their brain. And so quite often they don’t know how to verbalize however it is they’re feeling. And so they act it out. They act it out.

[00:24:21] And all behavior is communication, so when the adults are trained to start thinking, this is not a bad kid, this is not a kid that’s trying to hurt other people, push people’s buttons be mean and nasty, this is a kid that’s struggling and needs my help. It’s just unbelievable what that does for kids.

[00:24:42] I just feel like every kid should be, should have that kind of, at least an early school. I mean, I, in a perfect world, every kid going all the way up through their education, you know, whether it’s 12th grade or whether it’s preschool, would have adults trained in behavior strategies, not how to teach math and science, or how to diagram sentences, whatever the hell that even means. Like, why do we, why do we even need to know that? Um, and that’s just not the case. You know? So like you were a trailblazer to have chosen this school really.

[00:25:21] Sarah Miller: You know, looking back, it just changed the course of Elliot’s life so much. And I had, I didn’t know what that course would be, you know, he was only 15 months when he started there. Um, but I could he, he, had such, you know, he is highly sensitive. He’s the reason I joined Rise, and so I see him in, you know, a lot of, the families and kids in Mastermind and the experiences that they’re having at school. And it’s just so unfair that, not every place could view kids, like you said, like without a label and with positive intent and, trying to understand their behavior. He would’ve been so, so quickly, um, labeled as you know, disruptive, um, calls home and – 

[00:26:13] Randi Rubenstein: He would’ve been put into a box. Yeah, this is a behavior. And now I’m just gonna brag on him since I know you never would. He’s now just tested in, he’s graduating public elementary school, the neighborhood school, and he just tested into the most prestigious private school in Houston, which is almost impossible to get into. Like there’s kids that, you know, it’s almost like if you’re a lifer, if you get in there in, in kindergarten, then you just stay in, go all the way up. So there’s very few spots in sixth grade and there’s even fewer spots in ninth grade, and he just tested in to go to this super prestigious school. 

[00:26:54] it’s pretty unbelievable. I, you know, the thing I didn’t, I also didn’t know when I read your speech, I was like, wait a minute. Cuz I’ve known Sarah for years and she, came and, and joined my mastermind years ago, um, and started learning from me. And I didn’t know this story, but I was like, wait a minute. It sounds like they were practicing conscious discipline at this school. And tell, tell the listeners what you told me. I didn’t even know. 

[00:27:21] Sarah Miller: Yeah, It was part of their curriculum. Um, and they would do parent and teacher trainings. Um, I loved all of it, um, but I always had trouble. Um, translating it from the classroom techniques into the home because it’s really, classroom management is about having a, it’s called, called the school family. And there’s the safe place at school. And all these terms and like the you’re safe, you’re calm, you can do this, phrase that one of the teachers would repeat to Elliot when he was going through a difficult transition. there’s all these great techniques, but I could just never quite apply it to one-on-one with he, he and I during a meltdown at home.

[00:28:01] Right after that I found Randy and I heard all the, um, I heard conscious discipline phrases and I knew that’s what she was using, but it was in a way that I could finally translate it into the home and I had never heard anyone using conscious discipline at all, much less in ways that spoke to me that we could employ it in the home. And I was, that was what drew me in. I was hooked. 

[00:28:24] Randi Rubenstein: You know, it’s interesting because a lot of teachers that were trained in conscious discipline that actually taught at my kid’s elementary school, they’ve returned to me once they’ve become moms. And even teachers who are trained in this, I think a lot of times will have trouble translating it to what, what does this actually look like in your real life 

[00:28:46] It gets gunky, I think, to practice some these new skills and concepts that are not the way most of us were raised. Um, when you’re at home in your underwear with your actual children and they’re being annoying AF and acting their emotions out on the outside the way they feel on the inside, which all these concepts, like you learn these concepts, but when you’re in the heat of the moment with people that you are in love with, but not at this moment in like with, it’s freaking hard. It’s hard to translate these concepts.

[00:29:29] And so I think that I have to say that when I started learning conscious discipline, I was just so blown away and I was just so blown away by the concepts, and really it was the rebel tendency in me and the justice seeker that was like, well, yeah, every single child deserves to have teachers in charge of them who understand how to see them for the little human four-leaf clover they are, and, and not to shame them and to create this beautiful environment, and this school family and understand that kids have conflicts. And to know how to mediate those conflicts in a way that, you know, isn’t making one kid feel like he needs to sit in the corner with a dunk cap on and feeling like crap about himself.

[00:30:18] Like all the things I was learning, I was like, I want my kids to have teachers that are trained in this. And so I became so passionate about that. But as I was learning these concepts, I was like, okay, wait a minute. This is a different way to think as an adult. Like it helped me, you know, the neuroscience component of it. That’s what made me so obsessed with learning about the brain and learning about myself when I was feeling triggered and what was coming up for me.

[00:30:49] So it really was my first journey into kind of this self-awareness piece, which is like, wait, when my kids are doing X, Y, and Z and then all of a sudden I’d like have a memory of like, you know, so triggering for me when my, when Alec and Avery would fight even just like little bickering fights or just be, you know, just, just not getting along.

[00:31:11] And then all of a sudden I, I remember I was like, I was teaching a class, because of course once I started learning conscious discipline, I had to start like teaching it to other people because I was just like so amazed by it. So I was, I was teaching a class and I remember I had all of a sudden got a memory of my mom saying, me and my brother fighting, and my mom saying, “That’s it. You two can’t get along. I’m out. I’m packing my bags. I’m just gonna leave.”

[00:31:40] And like, that memory popped back up in my head. And my mom was not a yeller. And she was a pretty genteel person. and I knew, like, I knew even when she would say those things, like I knew she wasn’t leaving us. But there, even just the threat of that was, um, kind of traumatizing to me. And all of the sudden I connected the dots, like when my kids are fighting, because it’s hard to live with people and your kids are gonna bicker, they’re gonna get on each other’s nerves. But why did I get such an intense reaction in my body?

[00:32:15] And so like, connecting those dots, I was just like, okay. This is actually so interesting, you know? and so then I, I think I just like, felt like I had to share stories like that, and I think it’s the stories like that, that all of a sudden take it from something that you can understand conceptually and apply it to your own life.

[00:32:38] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. I agree. Because you’re right, it’s those triggers, that’s the difference between being at home versus in the classroom. Um, those you have to recognize what’s going on internally with you in order to control or be aware of your responses, that was really what I needed.. 

[00:32:57] Randi Rubenstein: yeah, you know, look, teachers get triggered in the classroom and, and they’re gonna, but it’s just different when you’re triggered by somebody else’s kid versus triggered by your own kid. It’s just so much more layered and complicated and, the fact that you had a conscious discipline, preschool experience for your kids, and that they were able to experience this inclusive environment, and really they’re, they’re conditioned not to have this ableism component to the, you know, like the, like I love this story about where.

[00:33:38] It actually was kind of reminding me of, you know, I’ve been obsessed with Judy Blume lately, after I watched her documentary and, you know, the Judy Blume characters, what you’ll notice is it’s not all wrapped up in a nice, neat little bow. She doesn’t, you know, like I just, I read Dini, and like she tells the story, but she in no way makes even like the protagonist of the story.

[00:34:05] Like, nobody’s perfect, everybody’s messy, like, the girl that is kissing Dini’s ass all the time at school who’s like a total try hard, you know, Dini wannabe. And like, Dini cuts her hair, she cuts her hair and she’s always like hanging around Dini’s desk and she’s on Dini’s nerves, like Dini’s kind of a bitch to her, right?

[00:34:26] Like, like, it, it’s kind of Elliot to Max, like, you know, it’s like, wasn’t treating Max like he needed to have kid gloves with Max. He was just like, like he, if Max did something that he, uh, some other kid would’ve done that he would’ve told the teacher he was telling on Max.

[00:34:42] Like, he just treated him like, it’s not like, now I’m gonna raise these children who are always gonna be ones that are so kind to everyone. And it’s like, no, your kids get to be human and they don’t have to be perfect. and they get to be kids. And if Max is being annoying, Elliot is like, hey, you’re being annoying. You know, like,

[00:35:06] Sarah Miller: Exactly. And that’s the thing every, what I really, a huge takeaway from me was that 

[00:35:11] every kid has their own differences, even if it’s not obvious. And parents who go around thinking that their kid is just slice of perfection, their kids are missing out, people around them are suffering. Like it’s just such a disservice to them for everyone to not look around and realize we’re all different, and to accept and be understanding of everyone for who they are, even from such a young age. 

[00:35:42] And more and more adults are getting diagnosed with, you know, autism spectrum disorder. Turns out they’ve had these, you know, their whole life, and they’ve wondered, you know, why they feel different or act different. We’re all just on a spectrum of differences.

[00:35:56] Randi Rubenstein: A hundred percent. And I think that unfortunately what most people, you know, experience is that, when you’re different or when you’re messy, and other people shame you, right? Rather than just show up for you.

[00:36:14] and the thing about when you’re messy, okay, and you’re a kid and you make mistakes, it’s like when Elliot went through that phase where you, was it Elliot, I think, like, he went through a phase where he was hitting, 

[00:36:30] Sarah Miller: Yeah. 

[00:36:31] Randi Rubenstein: I’m sure there were consequences. Like they were focused mostly on the skill of saying hi, right? And so they taught him that useful information and I’m sure that they got to a point where, they’re working on it, they’re working on it, hey, you wanted to talk to so-and-so, or you wanted to play with so-and-so, cuz this is very conscious discipline and you forgot the words to say, hey, can I play? Is that what’s happening? 

[00:36:59] Sarah Miller: Right. 

[00:37:00] Randi Rubenstein: Did you wanna play and you forgot the words? So that is practicing positive intent with kids. That’s what it looks like. It’s basically saying, yeah, you forgot the words, meaning you screwed up, you hit the kid and you forgot the words just say, hey, can I play too? So –

[00:37:15] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. 

[00:37:16] Randi Rubenstein: you forgot the words, so let’s practice it now. Let’s practice it now. So role-playing is a huge part of conscious discipline. So we can do that. So the way it looks in your own household at home is most of the time we just focus so much on what the kid did wrong, and what we focus on grows. Then we get more of that wrong behavior.

[00:37:36] And when we shift into applying things like positive is intent. Wait, wait, wait. Something’s going down here. Wait, did you just wanna play? And you just forgot the words to ask? And so you, you hit to let ’em know, Hey, what about me? What about me? Am I getting in this right?

[00:37:51] And the kid’s like, yeah, I wanted to play too. You’re like, okay, that makes sense. So, so what do you say when you wanna play? Practice with me. Okay. I’m playing something, now you come over and you, or you play something and I’ll, I’ll come over. Hey, hey. Excuse me. Okay. Now ignore me. Like, the kid would keep ignoring me. Excuse me. Um, I’d like to play too. Can I play? Wait, why are you not looking at me? Look at me. Look at me. I, really wanna play, too. I’m gonna go over here and play something else when you’re ready to play, I, I would love to play, too. Please let me know.

[00:38:29] See, then you can walk over, you can do something else, but you’ve let that kid know, I wanna play too, I wanna play too. And so then you go, and what if you just played right here next to him? Here, so I’m just gonna play here next to you and you keep playing and ignoring me. And then when you feel like it, you’re the other kid, you show me that it’s okay to play and I’ll just be patient over here. Okay, now it’s your turn. It’s your turn and I’ll be the kid you wanna play with.

[00:38:56] When we get into the practice of incorporating that role play, well now we’re giving our kids useful tools and skills and at the end of that, right, and I’m sure they did this at school, they probably, you know, said it is not okay to ever hit another child. This is a safe place. You have to be safe. You have to keep your body safe and other people’s bodies safe, too. So when the hitting, when you forget, when you have an oops moment and you forget, we’re gonna have you go over to your safe spot until you can remember these very important rules so that everyone gets to be safe.

[00:39:39] So that’s a difference, like conscious discipline, using that safe zone. And at home I teach it as you know, I always call it the calm down spot. It’s like, this is the place where we know you’re gonna be safe and other people are gonna be safe. And it’s different than timeout because it’s like, and when you’re ready, you know, when your body has calmed down and you know you’re gonna be safe and other people are gonna be safe too, then you can just come on outta your safe zone and, and let us know.

[00:40:07] Right? SO there is always a boundary. It’s not just all fluffy, fluffy, fluffy. 

[00:40:14] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. 

[00:40:15] Randi Rubenstein: that is a consequence. And I’ve been saying lately, you know, mastermind parenting is different than a lot of these gentle parenting programs because I do believe in consequences. And I, I really learned this from, from conscious discipline. And I know that you had some thoughts about some rant that I went off on, and I don’t even remember what rant it was in our group about, about the gentle parenting stuff. but I would love to know your thoughts on all that.

[00:40:42] Sarah Miller: Yeah, you, I, you were talking about gentle parenting and how it’s the a thing now. Um, this term is thrown around and, that there’s a difference between gentle parenting and, and acknowledging your kids’ feelings and emotions and all those important elements. Yet also you have to be the pack leader. The person who helps your kids feel safe by implementing boundaries, sometimes consequences. But that other element is missing from, um, a lot of these gentle parenting experts and philosophies. And, and that component of it is so critical. 

[00:41:26] And, um, I was just observing this weekend with my sister. She has three kids under 5, 5, 4. They’re like 15 months, 18 months apart. So like five and. Almost four and a one-year-old. And she is a big gentle parenting person, and has a really hard time being a pack leader and enforcing boundaries. She, and she’s in a really low place right now, cause I think – the kids are doing, they’re actually doing well, but I think she’s not feeling good about herself.

[00:42:06] Because I think, I think what also happens is sometimes the kids, who don’t have that pack leadership, they, they feel unsafe. They, they end up being more outta control. And/or the parent just always feels like they are losing because they don’t feel like they’re making any progress with the kids. And they’re like, I’m doing all this gentle parent, I’m acknowledging all their emotions, and I’m completely drained and exhausted and end up feeling like they’re doing it wrong. 

[00:42:34] Randi Rubenstein: Hmm.

[00:42:35] Sarah Miller: Because they’re too afraid or they’ve been told they can’t and they shouldn’t, you know, set some boundaries sometimes. And so that, that’s what really struck me about her and I felt, I feel really bad, I think way that she’s parenting is really leading her to down during a really hard time in life. 

[00:42:53] Randi Rubenstein: It feel, it feels disempowering and I think that, you know, I’ve noticed it even with our masterminders and, you know, because I’ve seen really skilled gentle parenting professionals, I hear their energy. They do know how to have boundaries. It’s just that embodying that pack leadership that I talk about, which is really like, I’m the mama. I got this. Yeah. Like, no monkey business. We’re not doing that. 

[00:43:21] Like when you’ve got a kid that is totally dysregulated and in the sandbox and hitting other kids, like going over and being like, you were really frustrated. You’re really frustrated. Like, like at that moment, we’ve gotta keep safety first. Safety is our number one priority. We will talk about feelings once everyone is safe and a human that is, that dysregulated in their nervous system, they can’t freaking hear you. Right? It’s not the ti it’s like read the room.

[00:43:54] And I think that’s where a lot of times, a lot of these, these things that make sense conceptually and make sense from a psychological perspective. I think we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater a little bit, where it’s like, okay, whoa, whoa, whoa. Parents’ job, we’re the pack leaders. We’re keeping everybody safe. We’re keeping our people safe. When there’s monkey business and, and all of a sudden somebody’s had an oops moment, we gotta disrupt that situation. We’ve gotta change the environment and change that child’s state.

[00:44:27] So when you see a little kid who’s all of a sudden like throwing sand, hitting another child, you go and you swoop in and you pick your child up and you take your child to a different spot and then one-on-one before you start talking about feelings and all that other stuff, which I’m all about like, yes, we want to teach our kids that they are allowed to have all the feelings, all the feelings are allowed. And, number one job is safety.

[00:44:58] So like, then all of a sudden you take ’em to another spot and you hold them. And you take some deep breaths and you’re just, you’re like, I’m right here. We’re just gonna take it down a notch. We’re just gonna take it down notch. But I was playing, I wanna play. And we’re not even looking, we’re not making eye contact, cuz that feels like on a primal level, that feels predatory. Maybe we’re from behind, maybe we’re holding t lap, we’re being a human weighted blanket. Right?

[00:45:28] But like having the confidence to know I can follow my instinct. And when my kid is being the sandlot bully, that feels terrible. and I feel judged and they’re, I know they’re getting judged. So I need to swoop in, grab my kid, take ’em to a different spot, hold them, make sure I help their body to calm down.

[00:45:53] And once their body’s calm, like I’m thinking clearly, they’re thinking more clearly and I let them know, then we can talk about feelings. Something was going on, you were really frustrated, you didn’t like something, and then we apply positive intent. So like, putting these things into practice.

[00:46:11] But I think that, we’re so, so many of us who are like, no one ever let me talk about my feelings. I was just shut down. And so we want to be that super parent, where we’re the parents that talk about all the feelings, but we’re forgetting our number one job is to make sure everybody is safe. And when you kid that’s hurting other people, including you, when they’re outta control, when they’re flailing like a wild animal, no one’s safe. No one’s safe. So we, so we gotta keep ’em safe, we gotta get ’em to safety.

[00:46:45] And I think that is where it’s missing the mark. And when we start to step more and more and more into that version of Mama Bear, right? And we’re really focused on keeping the people safe, and then we get to feel confident like, I’m the mom who makes all my people feel safe, right? Like the mama’s here.

[00:47:05] Um, it’s a huge confidence builder, and I just think that a lot of these programs that I totally believe, like 99% of it I am aligned with. But there’s this tiny little piece that I’m like, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. We’ve gotta bring some of this mama bear fierceness back into it, which is like, Uhuh, this is not okay. This behavior’s unacceptable. We’re moving. 

[00:47:33] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. 

[00:47:34] Randi Rubenstein: Sand playing is over for now. Let’s go. And then we go and we, and we help the person calm down. But it can’t – in that moment, that pack leadership piece, I think is so hard. I think it’s so hard, especially for women, because most of us don’t feel that confident to show up in that way. Like to have the boundary with your friend where you’re like, I don’t wanna go to the luncheon and I love you. And please come on on the podcast and read that amazing speech, right? 

[00:48:02] Sarah Miller: Right. We’re just gripped with fear, right? That we can’t tell our friends the truth or they won’t be our friends. We can’t be firm or pack leaders with our kids, or we’re gonna scar them for life, like these messages. And the more that you do it, cause I’ve been doing this too in my personal life and business life and my kids, and the more you do it, the more you realize that it’s fine. It’s fine and it builds your confidence, and 

[00:48:27] my relationship with my boys is so strong because they trust me. And I’m far from perfect and I have plenty of imperfect moments and explosions and yelling, but we’re all trying our best. When you show up as that pack leader, though, you build trust and such a strong relationship. And I think that more moms could experience that. 

[00:48:50] Randi Rubenstein: It’s just truth telling, right? Like, even when you show up in the moments where you’re like, knock it off, right? When the boys are fighting and it’s been a day and you’ve seen a million patients and you’ve recorded a podcast with me, and then you’re also the mom who’s going and picking ’em up in the Houston heat, sweating your ass off and then you get home and then they’re, it’s like almost the end of the school year and they don’t wanna do their homework and this one wants to play outside and this one won’t stop touching him. And you’re like, enough, right?

[00:49:21] Like also having the confidence to be like, they’re gonna be fine. And they know. You’re not tiptoeing around them, you’re telling the truth, which is, I’m a mom right now in this moment, and you guys are being freaking annoying. Like you don’t have to tell ’em they’re being annoying, but they can tell that you’re like, yeah, enough with the monkey business, it’s not happening. And they’re like, ah, she’s telling the truth. 

[00:49:47] Just like how our early conditioning at that school, all of our classmates that had down syndrome and autism and all these other, like, they just told the truth. They just showed up exactly as they are.

[00:49:58] Sarah Miller: I think that’s so key, the truth telling, because kids know, they know everything. We’re never hiding anything from them. If you think you’re hiding something, they know, and it does, it makes you so much closer when you’re your real self, even with those imperfect moments. And I agree with some of these, some gentle parenting that doesn’t have that other aspect to it, it actually erodes that trust because your kids don’t really believe that you’re showing up as your real self.

[00:50:28] There’s one example with my sister that really stuck with me. We, we were at our pool swimming. And her five-year-old, she didn’t want her five-year-old to go down the slide because she felt like it was unsafe. And so she told him it was broken. And I didn’t know that she had told him that off to the side.

[00:50:47] And so he came up to me and he asked me if he could use the slide and I said yes, uh, sure. I said, you’re welcome to, we only, we have these two rules about the slide. You can’t go up until the person at the top is down. And, um, I think, or maybe I just said, we have one rule. That’s our rule. And so- 

[00:51:06] Randi Rubenstein: I don’t remember what rsecond rule, we have two rules, but I can’t remember what the second rule is. 

[00:51:12] Sarah Miller: Um, and so he’s, talking talking and he was kind of like, just talking to me a long time about the slide instead of just going over there, and he was like, so I can really use it? And I was like yeah, it’s totally fine. And then, my sister came over to me. She was like, oh no, it’s broken, isn’t it? I was like, no. She’s like, oh yeah, you told me it was broken last week.

[00:51:36] Like, it was just this whole like, confusing thing. and I was like, oh. And I was like I’m not gonna lie to him. Like, it just felt, it was such a, such an obvious example of actual lying. But it just felt so in an effort to not have to have him have big emotions, sometimes she would resort to just like, you know little white lies or little bribes and, it just really erodes trust. 

[00:52:02] Randi Rubenstein: Okay, so we’re gonna end this on that. And Judy Blume, she said the same thing in her documentary. Like, why were the Judy Blume books so popular and have been so popular for so long? And they are the most censored children’s book. She’s the most censored children’s book author. 

[00:52:25] And something she said in that documentary was, I have total recall of how I felt as a kid, and what happened in all my experiences from third grade on. And the thing that used to bother me so much, was that it seemed like the adults had so many secrets, and I just wanted them to be honest with me. I wanted my questions answered and I didn’t know how to get my questions answered because the adults were, there was so many secrets. I felt like they were always lying.

[00:53:00] And so this, you know, when I started writing my books, I wrote from the child’s perspective, like how I felt when I just wanted my questions answered, and I didn’t know how to get them answered. And so these books really serve that purpose for kids.

[00:53:17] Sarah Miller: Mm-hmm. 

[00:53:17] Randi Rubenstein: Isn’t that so amazing? 

[00:53:19] Sarah Miller: Yeah, very much. 

[00:53:20] Randi Rubenstein: So good. Okay, as always, we could talk all day but you’ve got, we gotta get back to work. Real work. 

[00:53:28] Sarah Miller: Oh, this is the real w ork.

[00:53:29] Randi Rubenstein: Yes. this is the real work. Okay. Love you to pieces, thanks for being on today.

[00:53:34] Sarah Miller: Love you too. Thank you.

[00:53:36] Randi Rubenstein: Okay Bye, everyone, thanks for listening. Have a great week.

[00:53:39] Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips. Steps, tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household, I want you to go to my website and check out mastermindparenting. com. We have three beginning programs and if you need some accountability and more support then please, look for the one that would be a good fit for you.

[00:54:14] Um, and as always, we’re on all the social channels under mastermind parenting on Instagram. It’s mastermind underscore parenting. Um, and you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives where I give you teaching and coaching and I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong- willed kids so that they can feel better. Because when they feel better, they do better.

[00:54:44] And, um, I love, love, love getting to know you guys. So thanks for listening. If you like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super, super appreciative.

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Creating A Happier Household

by Randi Rubenstein